Everything You Need To Know About COVID-19 In Malaysia

It’s official – the coronavirus (or COVID-19) is now a global pandemic. The situation in Malaysia took a bleaker turn in the past week, with the number of cases spiking and the restriction movement order kicking in.

What is the restricted movement order?

As part of a social distancing measure, the government announced a Movement Control Order (MCO) on Monday until April 14.

In short, the restriction bans mass gatherings and overseas travel. All educational institutions, businesses and premises will be closed – except those involved in essential services. If you have any questions about the restriction, the National Security Council has released a FAQ here.

And, according to the federal gazette released on March 18, you are not allowed to go out (even within states) unless you need to:

  • perform an official duty
  • visit a premise that is considered an ‘essential service’
  • purchase, supply or deliver food or daily necessities
  • seek healthcare or medical services

According to a senior minister, only one representative of a family can go out to purchase daily necessities. If you don’t follow these restrictions, you could face an RM1,000 fine, or up to six months’ jail, or both.

Second phase of the MCOThe second phase of the MCO starts from April 1 to 14, in which stricter rules will be enforced:

  • Supermarkets and petrol stations to operate from 8am to 8pm
  • Food delivery services to operate from 8am to 8pm
  • Only one person allowed in a private vehicle, unless it’s an emergency
  • Private vehicles (including taxis and e-hailing) allowed from 6am to 10pm
  • Public transportation to operate from 6am to10 am and 5pm to10 pm
  • Commercial vehicle transporting essential goods encouraged to operate from 7pm to 7am
  • Restaurants, eateries and food delivery services to operate from 8am to 8pm
  • All religious premises to remain closed
  • Not permitted to travel more than 10km from residence when buying daily necessities, medicine or supplements

In addition, some states, including Kedah, Selangor, Terengganu and Melaka, have cancelled Ramadan bazaars this year to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

What businesses and premises are still operating?

Essential services are still allowed to remain open during this 14-day period. These include banking, electricity, fire, ports, docks, airports, the post, prisons, lubricants, healthcare, solid waste management, sewerage, broadcasting, telecommunications, transport, water, e-commerce, defence, food, wildlife, immigration, customs, hotels and accommodations.

This means that many of the everyday services you rely on will still be open throughout these two weeks. For example, restaurants and eateries will still be open, but only for takeout and deliveries. Supermarkets and groceries will also be open, both for physical and online shopping. Grab services are operating as usual too.

What’s happening to the stock market?

The Bursa has sunk to its lowest in a decade, falling 20.52% since the start of the year.

Airlines were among some of the most battered stocks this year. AirAsia Group Bhd’s stock plummeted 63% since the start of January, while Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd fell 39% in the same period.

Other blue chips were not spared. Public Bank, a stock that has been long-perceived to be relatively stable, fell 29% year to date. Even consumer stocks like Nestle fell 7%, while Carlsberg fell 34%.

The few gainers during the global virus outbreak include healthcare stocks, especially glove manufacturers. Since the start of the year, Top Glove Corp Bhd has rose 31%, Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd soared 16% and Hartalega rose 22%.

These numbers are accurate as of March 27, 2020.

How does COVID-19 affect workers?

News of tighter border controls led many Malaysians working in Singapore to head home to Johor Bahru so that they could collect their belongings and return to work in Singapore. Some workers have had to spend the night in MRT stations, although the Singaporean government and some employers are looking for ways to provide accommodation to Malaysian workers. The Johor state government hopes to reopen borderswith the island state.

Back in Malaysia, with the restricted movement order in place, many employees are working from home. Employees who can’t perform their jobs remotely – or working in sectors badly affected by the virus outbreak – have been asked (or forced) to take unpaid leave. However, the Humans Resources Ministry has announced that workers are entitled to their salaries throughout the restriction movement order.The prime minister also announced a RM600 monthly cash assistance (up to six months) to help workers who are forced to take unpaid leave.

Which banks are offering loan repayments moratorium?

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has put a six-month moratorium on the repayment of personal loans and financing. This means that all banks will offer an automatic postponement of loan payments of six months.

Here’s what you have to know about this initiative:

  • Eligibility. Only applies to ringgit-denominated loans that are not in default exceeding 90 days as at April 1. Does not apply to credit card debt.
  • Automatic. You do not have to apply for this, as it is automatic. If you do not want to defer your loan payment, contact your bank.
  • Period. Until September 30, 2020.
  • Interest payments. No late payment interest or charges, but your interest charges will accrue.
  • Credit score. This will not be classified under CCRIS as a loan deferment.

It’s important to note that your interest will still accrue during the moratorium period, for all banks. In addition, interest charges for some loans may be compounded.

But compounding interest/profit does not apply to Islamic financing facilities, as per Shariah law. Many banks have also stepped forward to say that the interest on their loans during the moratorium will not compound.

Which insurance companies and takaful operators provide COVID-19 coverage or financial aid?

All insurance companies and takaful operators under the Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (LIAM) and Malaysian Takaful Association (MTA) have confirmed that they will provide hospitalisation and treatment coverage for COVID-19 – but your policy may differ in terms of specific benefits, terms and conditions.

Here are the list of LIAM insurance and takaful operators providing COVID-19 coverage:

  • AIA Bhd
  • Allianz Life Insurance Malaysia Berhad
  • AmMetLife Insurance Berhad
  • AXA AFFIN Life Insurance Berhad
  • Etiqa Life Insurance Berhad
  • Gibraltar BSN Life Berhad
  • Great Eastern Life Assurance (Malaysia) Berhad
  • Hannover Rueck SE, Malaysian Branch
  • Hong Leong Assurance Berhad
  • Malaysian Life Reinsurance Group Berhad
  • Manulife Insurance Berhad
  • MCIS Insurance Berhad
  • Prudential Assurance Malaysia Berhad
  • Sun Life Malaysia Assurance Berhad
  • Tokio Marine Life Insurance Malaysia Bhd.
  • Zurich Life Insurance Malaysia Berhad

What’s in the COVID-19 economic stimulus package?

The prime minister recently announced PRIHATIN Rakyat, an RM250 billion economic package to help cushion COVID-19’s economic impact. Here’s how it will affect you:

Insurance and takaful

  • An RM8 million fund will be set up by insurance and takaful providers to cover the screening costs at private hospitals or laboratories for policyholders, worth up to RM300

Doctors, nurses and other medical staff

  • Increase of monthly allowance from RM400 to RM600 starting April 1

Police, army, customs, RELA and other involved in carrying out MCO

  • RM200 monthly allowance starting April 1 until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic

Cash handouts for households

  • RM1,600 for households earning RM4,000 a month and below
  • RM1,000 for households earning between RM4,001 and RM8,000 a month
  • RM800 for singles aged 21 and above who earn RM2,000 a month and below
  • RM500 for singles aged 21 and above who earn between RM2,001 and RM4,000

Higher education students (including matriculation, community college, polytechnic, public universities and private universities)

  • RM200 one-off payment
  • PTPK loans: deferment of six months, from April 1 to September 30

B40:

  • Those under MySalam can claim RM50 per day for 14 days if receiving hospital treatment for COVID-19 or those under quarantine
  • Six-month rent exemption for PPR residents

Private Retirement Scheme (PRS)

  • Withdrawal of up to RM1,500 from Account B without incurring penalties from April to December 2020

Government buildings

  • Six-month rent exemption for government-owned buildings, including school canteens, day-care centres, and convenience stores

Electricity bill discount :

  • For residents using up to 600 kWH, applicable for six months from April
  • 50% discount for electricity usage below 200 kWH
  • 25% discount for electricity usage between 201 kWH and 300 kWH
  • 15% discount for electricity usage between 301 kWH and 600 kWH

Telecommunication

  • Free internet for all telecommunication service customers from April 1 until the end of MCO

Civil servants

  • RM500 one-off payment to civil servants grade 56 and below (include those on contract) in April 

Government retirees

  • RM500 one-off payment in April

E-hailing drivers:

  • RM500 one-off payment in April

How to apply for Bantuan Khas COVID-19

Eligible Malaysians can seek financial assistance of RM100 a day through the COVID-19 fund under the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA). Here’s how you apply for it.

Eligibility

1. Working Malaysians who lost their source of income or were not paid during the Observation and Surveillance Order

2. Working Malaysians who lost their source of income or were not paid while receiving hospital treatment for COVID-19

How to apply 

1. Download and fill in these application forms from NADMA:

  • Borang Permohonan Bantuan Khas Covid19 (Attachment A)
  • Borang Akuan Kehilangan Pendapatan (Attachment B)
  • Surat Perwakilan Kuasa Kepada Waris (Attachment C) *if you do not have a bank account

2. Attach these documents in your application:

  • IC (certified copy)
  • Ministry of Health documents (certified copies) – a copy of Borang Perintah Pengawasan Dan Pemerhatian Bagi Kontak Covid-19 if you are under quarantine; or a medical certificate provided by your hospital if you are undergoing treatment for COVID-19

3. Mail your completed application to:

Ketua Pengarah
Agensi Pengurusan Bencana Negara (NADMA)
Jabatan Perdana Menteri
Aras 7, Blok D5, Kompleks D
Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan
62502 PUTRAJAYA
(u.p. : Sekretariat KWABBN)

If you have been approved, the financial assistance will be electronically transferred to you 30 days from the date of your application.

What financial assistance/reliefs are available for SMEs?

As of April 6, three economic stimulus packages have been announced. Here’s what’s in them for SMEs:

Economic Stimulus Package 2020 – announced February 27

Easing cashflow (effective April until September)

  • Allow deferment of monthly income tax instalment payments for businesses in the tourism sector.
  • Allow affected companies to revise their profit estimates for 2020 with respect to monthly income tax instalment payments without penalty.
  • Provide 15% discount in monthly electricity bills to hotels, travel agencies, airlines, shopping malls, conventions and exhibitions centres.
  • Exempt Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF) levies for hotels and travel related companies.
  • Exempt the 6% service tax for hotels (March to August).

Financing facilities

  • To provide a Special Relief Facility (SRF) worth RM2 billion in the form of working capital for SMEs at 3.75% interest rate.
  • Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) will allocate RM200 million in microcredit facility offering an interest rate of 4% to affected businesses.
  • All banks must provide financial relief in the form of payment moratorium.

PRIHATIN Economic Stimulus Package – announced March 27

Financing facilities

  • Increase the size of the SRF by to RM5 billion, and reduce the interest rate to 3.5%.
  • Increase the size of the All Economic Sector Facility fund RM6.8 billion.
  • Provide additional RM500 million under the Micro Credit Scheme (total of RM700 million) for soft loans at 2% interest rate without collateral; loan eligibility requirements relaxed to six months of operation; maximum financing amount increased to RM75,000.
  • BizMula-i and BizWanita-i schemes for financing up to RM300,000 under the Credit Guarantee Malaysia Berhad (CGC), for SMEs with business records of less than four years.
  • Syarikat Jaminan Pembiayaan Perniagaan (SJPP) to provide RM5 billion worth of guarantees.

Assisting cashflow for employers

  • Employer Advisory Services programme under EPF: options for deferring payments, restructuring and rescheduling of employers’ contributions.
  • Exempt payment for HRDF for six months.
  • Postponement of income tax instalment payments to all SMEs for three months beginning April 1.
  • Banking institutions to offer a 6-month moratorium.
  • Wage Subsidy Programme: wage subsidy of RM600 to employers for three months to retain their employees earning RM4,000 and below.

PRIHATIN Package for SMEs (Additional Measures) – announced April 6

Wage Subsidy Programme

  • Expanded to RM13.8 billion, up from RM5.9 billion from March 27 announcement.
  • Covers companies who are registered with Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) prior to January 1 and PERKESO. Companies who opt in this scheme must retain employees for at least six months. The scheme covers Malaysian employees earning RM4,000 and below:
    • Companies with more than 200 employees – RM600 per employee
    • Companies with 76 to 200 employees – RM800 per employee
    • Companies with 1 to 75 employees – RM1,200 per employee

Grants and financing

  • Creation of a RM2.1bil PRIHATIN Special Grant: provide a special grant of RM3,000 to each micro SME. SMEs must register with the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) to enjoy this facility.
  • Abolish the 2% interest rate for the RM500mil Micro Credit Scheme under Bank Simpanan Nasional. The micro loan scheme for micro businesses is also extended to Tekun Nasional at a maximum of RM10,000 per company at 0% interest. Applicants can only choose one of these schemes.
  • Licensed money-lending organisations encouraged to provide six-month moratorium.

Others

  • Encourage negotiations between employers and employees on employment terms, which include wage cuts and unpaid leave, during the MCO.
  • For companies with financial year ending between September 30 and December 2019, a three-month-extension to submit financial statements from the final day of MCO.
  • Tax deductions for owners of private premises if they reduce rental to SME tenants by at least 30% during the MCO and three months after it ends.
  • Automatic moratorium of 30 days to allow companies to submit statutory declatrations to SSM.

How can you manage your budget during this time?

The next few weeks will be rough sailing for many Malaysians. On the personal finance side, now’s the time to review your contingency plan and look at your budget.

If you have been forced to go on unpaid leave, consider if (and how) you can afford to ride out the next two weeks or more. If you don’t have any emergency savings, try to cut out non-essential expenses – this will help stretch your budget for longer, until you can get back to work.

Reach out to your bank if you’re having trouble with loan repayments. Many banks have declared a temporary loan deferment for affected customers. Depending on your bank, you may be able to restructure or reschedule your loan. You can also consider applying for government financial aid or withdrawing from your EPF (but you should only do so if it’s an emergency – otherwise, you’d be taking out from your retirement savings).

If you already have a financial safety net in place, that’s great. Continue monitoring your budget and take steps to reduce your spending if needed. We’re not sure yet what the full effects of the coronavirus will be on our economy, so keeping your emergency fund in place could help cushion you if things get bad.

And if you can do so, consider giving financial help to those who need them. Organisations like Mercy Malaysia and World Vision Malaysia have set up specific funds in response to the pandemic, while platforms like #Kitajagakita offers resources for those who want to volunteer or offer financial help.

In the meantime, stay home and stay safe. – Published from imoney by Jen-Li Lim on 08, April 2020